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By Nathan Bailey, MA, LPC

Most of us take time each year to go on vacation. It’s never as long as we want or as often as we want. We go on vacation as a way to do something different, break out of our routine, find time to relax, and put down (at least some) of our responsibilities. Since it’s unlikely that we could do this as often as we’d like or need, is there a way to incorporate mini-moments of vacation into our everyday life? Yes! 

We can find opportunities to use a short period of time to achieve some of the same things a full on vacation gives us. It can help to lower our anxiety, decrease stress, bring encouragement when we’re sad and even help us be more present in relationships. 

Why 15 minutes? For one thing, we all have several 15 minute gaps in our normal day. It doesn’t matter how busy you are, you can do it. It doesn’t seem like a long enough period of time to do something productive so we usually pick up our phone and scroll. Waiting for something? Most people pick up their phone. It’s been estimated that most people spend over 3 hours a day interacting with their phone. Cutting this back (even just a little) will give you the time you need to do something different.  

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it should give you a place to start. You can of course stretch any of these beyond 15 minutes (and probably should at least a few times a week) but the idea here is that you can do them in a very short period of time. Because of that, you’ll be more likely to do them even on the busiest of days. 

Breathing – Taking 15 minutes to slowly take deep breaths, hold for a few seconds and slowly exhale (the slower the better) can do you wonders. It might just be the most relaxing time of your day. There’s a lot of research on how this type of breathing can benefit you. Check it out.

Good memory movies – Bring to mind some of your favorite memories of times you’ve spent with others, fun adventures or experiences you’ve had and big achievements. Maybe use this time to remember loved ones who’ve since passed on. Recall as many details as possible. Try it with your eyes open or closed, which way do you like it better? In our minute to minute lives, we don’t often take time to look back at the good stuff. 

Walk – Don’t think you can get anything out of a 15 minute walk? Think again! A short, brisk walk will get the blood pumping, clear your mind and depending on where you do it, gets you “away” if only for a short period of time. 

Stretch – You don’t have to be able to get your legs behind your head to benefit from this. Stretching can improve muscle blood flow as well as reduce stress and tension. Don’t know where to start? Find a simple, guided video on Youtube (yes I know that means a device of some sort…after you learn the routine, you can put it down again!).   

Clear your mind – Ever go into Task Manager on your computer and see all the programs running? Many of them in the background? Our minds can be a bit like that. Take the 15 minutes to consciously “close out” the various thoughts that bounce in. This can take a little practice but it’s doable and relaxing. 

Call a friend – We all do a lot more texting than calling, but there’s something about hearing someone else’s voice that can bring them closer. If you’re like me, you don’t often call up an old  friend because you’re waiting for that big chunk of time (that doesn’t come) you’ll need to “catch up.” You can have more fun talking to a friend in 15 minutes than you think and you’ll be more likely to do it day-to-day.  

Make a donation – Need a quick pick me up? How about doing something for someone else? It doesn’t take a lot, a little can go a long way. Find a charity or cause that has a special meaning to you and send $10. You’ll know you did something to help make the world a better place.

Put something away/clean – There’s something very therapeutic about making something messy, clean again. I’m not suggesting you tackle the garage in 15 minutes, but even the most simple task can make you feel better. Vacuum your car floor, rearrange your medicine cabinet, clean your desk etc. There’s an even greater ROI when it’s something you see or have to interact with all the time. You’ll keep noticing how much nicer “it” is. 

Listen to your favorite song (or two) – Put on your headphones, turn it up and soak in those songs that inspire or excite you. Or maybe that one-hit wonder you’ve not heard forever but still puts a smile on your face and gets you singing along (i.e. Jesus Jones – Right here, right now). 

Go outside – You could take this idea and do a million things with it…but remember we’re trying to keep it simple. Just step outside, close the door behind you and enjoy. Is it raining? Stand on your porch or take an umbrella and listen to/smell the rain.  

Watch your dog (or cat) – Ever just sit and focus on a dog or cat? It’s great! Watch them breathe, walk around, sniff etc. It’ll probably make you smile and maybe even laugh.  

Look at a painting (or other art) – Maybe you have one on your wall that you walk by a hundred times a day and don’t really notice. Maybe you have a book of art (or can get one). Take 15 minutes to focus on it. What does it say to you? How does it make you feel? Maybe you’ll see something you’ve never seen before. 

Disconnect, turn the phone off, disconnect from WiFi – Go off the grid, if only for 15 minutes. There’s something about being unreachable that can go a long way in calming you down. 

Listen to the sounds of nature, birds, waves – You might have immediate access to these sounds or you might need to find an app that has them all. Either way, just focus in on the sound and escape for 15 minutes.  

Listen to quiet – If there’s nothing to hear, are you really listening? That’s deep…but the point is, sometimes just allowing the space for quiet can be incredibly relaxing. If you’re surrounded by noise, you might have to get a little creative to achieve this but where there’s a will there’s a way. 

Pray – Prayer can be a powerful way to disconnect from the world around you, focus on what really matters and lift you outside of yourself. Don’t know what to say or how to “stay on target?” Try praying through a historical prayer to get you headed in the right direction. 

Write a letter by hand – Get yourself a nice pen, some special paper and go to town. Write an old friend, someone in your family or even a letter to be opened by someone in the future. Staring at a blank page can be tough, but lower the bar. You don’t have to be prolific, people will appreciate that you’re even doing this at all.  

Read a poem – The world is full of great poetry, find the one that speaks to you!

Mindfulness – As you consciously relax, use your senses to clue in to the immediate world around you. This helps us take a break from thinking 5 or 10 steps down the road or being worried about what tomorrow brings. Restrict your attention to the here and now. 

Look at pictures you’ve taken – This might involve your device, but it doesn’t have to. Have some old printed pictures laying around? Go see what you can find. 

Give someone a hug – Physical touch can help us generate oxytocin which brings all sorts of benefits. There’s a good deal of research out there that proves hugging can really help us feel better. 

Have a hot drink of tea, coffee or hot chocolate (without doing anything else) – This is one of those things we typically do while we’re doing something else. Try something different by doing it without any other distraction. Enjoy the feel of the mug. The smell. The heat forces you to go slow and can help you relax. 

I hope these ideas get you thinking. I’m sure you can come up with others. The point is, you have 15 minutes (or more) during the course of your day. Sprinkle these mini-vacations in among the craziness of your day and use healthy ways for self care. 

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Lime Tree Counseling offers a number of supports for people needing help. We offer anxiety counseling, trauma therapy, marriage counseling and many other services. Our team is ready to help you be the best version of you. Reach out and schedule with us today. We offer in-person and online therapy to best fit your needs.